Friday, November 27, 2009
Joe Klein on Obama's Missteps
I think that Joe Klein has possibly put his finger on it.. Obama needs a lieutenant who can cover for him and make sure he is making decisions on a timely basis. Anyway this is the first item that I have seen that tries to get a handle on the man’s performance. And quite rightly, he is presently learning the job. This is no different than the first year of Bush and Clinton of recent memory.
The blips will disappear soon enough.
My most serious concern is the complete lack of action in tackling the direct effects of the economic deflation underway. A combination of credit liquidation and transfers has stabilized the present situation. This will end soon. One part of this is that millions are without work and their savings and unemployment insurance will soon dry up. In the meantime the economy is not creating jobs.
My second concern is that several States are insolvent. They are a big part of local support for large parts of the population.
In short there are a lot of worrisome problems remaining unaddressed. The credit contraction has sort of ended and the banking system is struggling with the novel idea of refinancing America without much in the form of surplus equity. There is still plenty of losses presently unrealized but the most egregious have certainly been absorbed by the taxpayer.
It is not wonderful but I think that it is possible to limp back from the brink even with the present inaction.
It just does not need to be this way. I am still waiting to see if it will be otherwise.
For the scaremongers, we are now actually at the real cusp of a great depression. This is the point that Hoover blew it. This is where a mistake can make millions homeless and into hobos.
Obama's 'Mistakes': Way Too Early to Judge
By JOE KLEIN Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009
Over the past few weeks, Barack Obama has been criticized for the following: He didn't go to Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the Wall's coming down. He didn't make a forceful enough statement on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. diplomats' being taken hostage in Iran. He didn't show sufficient mournfulness, at first, when the Fort Hood shootings took place, and he was namby-pamby about the possibility that the shootings were an act of jihad. He has spent too little time focusing on unemployment. He bowed too deeply before the Japanese Emperor. He allowed the Chinese to block the broadcast of his Shanghai town-hall meeting. He allowed the Chinese President to bar questions at their joint press conference (a moment memorably satirized by Saturday Night Live). He didn't come back with any diplomatic victories from Asia. He allowed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 plotters to be tried in the U.S. criminal-justice system rather than by the military. He has dithered too long on Afghanistan. He has devoted too much attention to — and given congressional Democrats too much control over — health care reform, an issue that is peripheral to a majority of Americans.
And all this has led to a dangerous slippage in the polls, it is said, a sense that his presidential authority is ebbing.
As a fully licensed pundit, I have the authority to weigh in here ... but I demur.
Oh, I could sling opinions about every one of the events cited above — some were unfortunate — but it would matter only if I could discern a pattern that illuminates Obama's presidency. The most obvious pattern, however, is the media's tendency to get overwrought about almost anything. Why, for example, is the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall demolition so crucial that it requires a President's presence? Which recent U.S. President has gotten the Chinese to agree to anything big? (In fact, Obama has secured significant diplomatic cooperation from the Chinese on North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan.) Was his deep bow indicative of anything other than his physical fitness? (My midsection, sadly, prevents the appearance of obsequiousness in such circumstances.)
Stepping back a bit, I do see a metapattern that extends over the 40 years since Richard Nixon's Southern strategy began the drift toward more ideological political parties: Democrats have tough first years in the presidency. Of the past seven Presidents, the two Bushes rank at the top in popularity after one year, while Obama and Bill Clinton rank at the bottom, with Jimmy Carter close by. There is a reason for that. Democrats come to office eager to govern the heck out of the country. They take on impossible issues, like budget-balancing and health care reform. They run into roadblocks — from their own unruly ranks as well as from Republicans. They get lost in the details. A tax cut is much easier to explain than a tax increase. A foreign policy based in bluster — railing against an "axis of evil" — is easier to sell than a foreign policy based in nuance. Of course, external events count a lot: the ratings of Bushes I and II were bolstered, respectively, by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the flattening of the World Trade Center. Reagan's rating — 53% and headed south — was dampened by a deepening recession.
So it is way too early to make pronouncements on Obama's fate. One pattern that can be limned from the recent overseas controversies is that this President has a tendency to err in the direction of respect toward other countries. This is a witting reaction to the Bush Administration's tendency to diss our allies and insult — or invade — our enemies. It is a long game, which will yield results, or not, over time. After a first year spent demonstrating a new comity, Obama has gained the global credibility to get tough — on Iran, for example — in his second year. But the real evaluation of Obama's debut must wait for the results of the two biggest problems he's tackling: his decision on Afghanistan and the congressional attempt to pass health care reform. And even here, it will be difficult to render judgment immediately — as difficult as it was to judge Clinton's decision to spend his political capital on deficit reduction in his 1993 economic plan, a triumph that didn't become apparent for nearly five years.
The one Asian image that resonates with me isn't the bow, but the President alone on the Great Wall. That image — the noble loner — is clearly one the White House wants to project. But it raises the specter of isolation. Most Presidents have a significant other when it comes to policy. Bush Junior had Cheney; Clinton had Hillary; Bush the Elder had James Baker; Nixon had Kissinger. Obama's conservative critics poke fun at his overweening ego, but I suspect that the President's need to find an alter ego, an intellectual equal — in addition to the First Lady — who can challenge his decisions and demeanor (in private, with the bark off), is the biggest adjustment he has to make now.